10 May 2019 was a beautiful spring day in Ankara. A day students at Ankara’s prestigious Middle East Technical University (METU) had planned as a celebration of love and solidarity. Instead, their peaceful and legitimate gathering was violently broken up by police using pepper spray, plastic bullets and tear gas. At least 22 people were unlawfully detained on the university campus. And now, 18 of them and an academic are facing baseless criminal charges for participating in the METU Pride. Their trial starts on 12 November.
Video footage shows that the students and academics gathered peacefully but were told by police that they were not allowed to stand under tents, to fly a rainbow flag or even sit on the lawn. Eventually, they were prevented from reading out a statement, with up to 22 students and an academic were detained.
States have a positive obligation to facilitate peaceful assemblies in law and in practice. In the case of the METU students and staff, their right to celebrate Pride was unjustifiably violated. And now 18 students and an academic are facing an unfair prosecution simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The charges against them must be dropped.
They are brave young people who stand up for their rights without fear, but they need our support and solidarity. You can join Amnesty in sending a clear message to the authorities:
Take action now and send an email to Turkey’s Minister of Justice, Mr Abdülhamit Gül calling on him to ensure that:
- Charges are dropped against the 18 METU students and the academic for their alleged participation in the Pride Parade on 10 May 2019.
- The excessive use of force by the police on campus is promptly, independently and impartially investigated and police officers found to have acted unlawfully are brought to justice.